How Women Have Used Fashion as a Feminist Tool Throughout History

Fashion has always been a tool for women to express themselves and their identities. But it has also been used as a tool for feminist protest throughout history. From suffragettes to punk rockers, women have used fashion to make a statement and fight for their rights.

Checkout this video:


Fashion has often been seen as a frivolous pursuit, an expression of vanity and self-indulgence. But throughout history, women have also used fashion as a tool to express their political beliefs, to challenge gender norms, and to push for social change.

In the early 20th century, Suffragettes in the United Kingdom and the United States used clothing as a way to visually proclaim their demand for the right to vote. Wearing all white was a way to emphasize their purity and innocence, while also calling attention to the drab clothes that women were expected to wear at that time. In 1917, British Suffragettes even burned down fashionable houses of couture in order to destroy outdated notions of femininity.

A few decades later, during the Counterculture Movement of the 1960s, young people across America rejected traditional ideas about gender roles and sexuality. They began wearing clothes that broke with convention—clothes that were more comfortable, more expressive, and less restrictive. For women, this meant wearing pants and jeans instead of skirts and dresses. It also meant rejecting traditional ideas about what was appropriate for “ladies” to wear in public.

During the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s, feminists continued to use fashion as a form of political expression. They adopted styles that were considered masculine or “un feminine” in order to challenge traditional ideas about gender. They also began using fashion as a way to celebrate female body types that were not traditionally considered attractive—such as plus-size bodies or older bodies.

Today, we are seeing a new generation of women using fashion to make political statements. Celebrities like Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham are using their public platformsto speak out against unrealistic standards of beauty. And fashion designers are beginning to create clothing lines that cater to a more diverse range of body types.

As we move into the future, it is likely that women will continue to use fashion as a tool for social change—a way to express their beliefs and fight for equality.

The Suffragettes

The Suffragettes were a political movement campaigning for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century in the United Kingdom. In order to gain public attention and support for their cause, the Suffragettes employed a number of strategies including protest, civil disobedience, and using fashion as a tool for political expression.

One of the most famous examples of the Suffragettes using fashion as a form of political expression is when they decided to adopt the color purple as their official color. The color purple was chosen because it was seen as a symbol of royalty and nobility, and the Suffragettes wanted to show that women were just as deserving of political power as men. They also began wearing white to represent purity and green to represent hope.

  What Makes a Great Fashion Icon?

The Suffragettes also used fashion to subvert traditional gender roles and expectations. For instance, they would often wear pants instead of skirts or dresses in order to challenge the notion that women should be confined to domestic roles. They also sought to de-sexualize their appearance by wearing plain clothes and no makeup.

While the Suffragettes’ use of fashion was certainly ahead of its time, it is important to note that not all women supported their methods or approved of their chosen methods of political expression. Some saw their approach as too radical and felt that it would set back the cause of women’s suffrage rather than help it. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Suffragettes’ use of fashion was an important step in helping to secure women’s right to vote and paving the way for future feminist movements.

The Flappers

The Flappers were a “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flouted conventional behavior. They were seen as threats to traditional values and more importantly — to the male-dominated status quo. In many ways, they were the first wave of feminists.

While the flappers are often associated with the Roaring Twenties — a time of prosperity in the United States after World War I — they were also a product of the progressive movement sweeping the country at the time. This movement advocated for increased rights for women, including the right to vote, which was granted in 1920 with the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

The flappers embraced their newfound freedom and took full advantage of it. They smoked cigarettes, drank cocktails, and danced to jazz music in speakeasies — all behaviors that would have been considered scandalous just a few years earlier. And while they may have appeared to be living carefree lives, their actions were actually quite subversive.

By challenging conventional gender roles and rejecting traditional ideas about femininity, the flappers paved the way for future generations of feminists. They proved that women could be just as strong and independent as men — even if it meant raising a few eyebrows along the way.

The New Look

In the 1940s, Christian Dior introduced a fashion silhouette that was dramatically different from anything that had come before it. The narrow waist and long skirt of the pre-war years was replaced with a look that featured a curvy figure with a small waist, full hips, and a very full skirt. Dior called this look the “New Look” and it quickly became extremely popular. It also outraged many people who saw it as an irresponsible use of resources during a time of war.

  What Was the Fashion Style in the 80s?

The New Look was created in response to the economic hardships of the war years. Dior believed that women needed to look their best in order to boost morale and encourage men to fight for their country. He also believed that fashion could be used as a tool to promote French culture and assert France’s position as a leading fashion center.

While the New Look was extremely popular, it was also controversial. Many people saw it as a sign of luxury and excess at a time when millions were suffering from hunger and poverty. There were also concerns that the full skirts could be dangerous if they caught fire or became tangled in machinery.

Despite the controversy, the New Look continued to be popular throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that fashion began to shift away from the voluptuous silhouette favored by Dior.

The Hippies

The 1960s was a decade of political and social upheaval, with the civil rights and anti-war movements leading the way. In fashion, it was a decade of change as well, with the youthquake moving away from the conservative styles of the 1950s. The hippie look symbolized a rejection of traditional values and an embrace of a more natural, free-spirited lifestyle. For women, this meant feel-good fabrics like denim and cotton, loose cuts, and flowy silhouettes. The hippie aesthetic also championed self-expression through jewelry and accessories, as well as bold makeup and hairstyles.

The Punks

The Punks were a subcultural force to be reckoned with in the late 1970s. This group of young people in London rebelled against the mainstream through their fashion choices, which were often shocking and designed to make a statement. The Punks were known for their DIY ethic, and this was reflected in their clothing, which was often made from second-hand materials or found objects. safety pins, chains, and razor blades were also used as adornments. The Punk movement was short-lived, but it made a lasting impact on fashion and culture.

The Grunge Movement

In the 1990s, a revolutionary youth movement challenged the mainstream silhouettes with oversized flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and Doc Martens. This was the grunge movement, and it was a radical declaration against traditional fashion norms. The style was originally popularized by men, but it quickly spread to women as well. For many young women, grunge was a way to express their dissatisfaction with the superficiality of the fashion industry. It was also a way to challenge traditional ideas of femininity and beauty. By dressing in what was considered to be “unsexy” clothing, women were subverting the notion that they should be judged solely on their physical appearance. Grunge fashion was an empowering statement that said, “I am not defined by my clothes.”

  Where in Tokyo Do People Dress in Rainbow Fashion?

The Power Dressing Movement

Though society has long told women that what they wear is not important, throughout history, women have used fashion as a form of protest. One such example is the power dressing movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s. After years of being told to dress a certain way in order to be taken seriously, women began to embrace more masculine styles of clothing in an effort to show that they could be both feminine and powerful. This style was popularized by figures such as Gloria Steinem and Anne-Marie Cazalis, and though it has since fallen out of fashion, its impact can still be seen in today’s clothing choices.

The Body Con Movement

The Body Con movement is a historical moment where fashion and feminism collided. This was a time where women began to use their clothing as a tool to express their sexuality and challenge the cultural norm that women should be demure and reserved. The movement started in the 1990s and was made up of mostly young women of color who were tired of being told that their bodies were not good enough. They reject the idea that they should dress to please men and instead dress for themselves.

Body Con dresses are tight fitted dresses that show off the curves of the body. They are often short, sleeveless, and low cut. This style of dress was popularized by celebrities like Madonna and Vanessa Williams. It was seen as a rebellious act against the traditional gender roles that were placed on women. These dresses gave women a sense of empowerment and freedom.

The Body Con movement is an important part of feminist history because it showed that women can be sexy and powerful at the same time. It also showed that fashion can be used as a tool to challenge social norms and fight for equality.


Though fashion is often seen as a superficial pursuit, it has been used as a tool for feminist expression for centuries. From the 18th century onward, women have used fashion to make political statements, challenge gender norms, and express their social and economic status. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, fashion again became a tool for feminist expression as women embraced more casual styles and protested against the sexualization of women’s bodies in the media. As we move into the future, it is likely that fashion will continue to be used as a tool for feminist expression and empowerment.

Scroll to Top